Singapore uses laws to curb freedom of expression – HRW
Bangkok, Dec. 13 (IANS): Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Wednesday reported extensive use of oppressive laws and regulations and lawsuits by the authorities of Singapore to curb freedom of expression and assembly in the city-state.
In a new report, the organisation reported that Singaporeans who criticize the government and the judiciary or religion and issues of race were often slapped with lawsuits with high damage claims or face criminal investigations, reports Efe news.
According to HRW, Singapore uses laws and regulations, including the Public Order Act, the Sedition Act, the Broadcasting Act, penal code provisions and laws on criminal contempt to impose censorship and limit debate in the media, Internet and movies.
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said that these restrictions have “long stifled debate” on matters of public interest.
“Singapore promotes itself as a modern nation and a good place to do business, but people in a country that calls itself a democracy shouldn’t be afraid to criticize their government or speak out about political issues,” he said in a statement.
The organization cites the case of Roy Ngerng, an activist who, after criticizing the government and reporting inequalities in Singapore on his blog, was sentenced to pay over S$ 100,000 ($73,490) to the Prime Minister – who sued him for defamation – and then fired from his job.
HRW also reported restrictions on protests in public spaces without police permits, with such protests being allowed to be held only in a section of the tiny Hong Lim Park where foreigners are barred.
“Singapore’s kneejerk response to sue or prosecute critics has for many years limited critical reporting on the city-state,” according to Robertson, who urged Singapore’s trading partners to “call on the government to modernize its views of human rights”.